No Excuse: Web Designers Who Can’t Code

Some of the most important design decisions happen in code. In 2009, I gave a talk at the Build conference in Belfast with what I thought was a fairly uncontroversial premise: web designers should write code. Since then, the subject has sparked more than a few debates, including a particular heated pile-on when Elliot Jay Stocks tweeted that he was "shocked that in 2010 I’m still coming across ‘web designers’ who can’t code their own designs. No excuse." In a recent interview, Jonathan Ive said "It’s very hard to learn about materials academically, by reading about them or watching videos about them; the only way you truly understand a material is by making things with it." He’s talking about product design, but the principle is just as relevant to the Web (if not more so). "The best design explicitly acknowledges that you cannot disconnect the form from the material—the material informs the form…. Because when an object’s materials, the materials’ processes and the form are all perfectly aligned…. People recognize that object as authentic and real in a very particular way." As our industry grows and roles get more specialized, it’s possible to become a "web designer" without more than a cursory understanding of the fundamental building materials of the Web: the code. Is this just the price of progress? Are the days of the web craftsman soon to be in the past? Or is a hybrid approach to web design and development something worth preserve?

  • Jenn Lukas
  • Ethan Marcotte
  • Ryan Sims
  • Wilson Miner

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